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Remarks at White House Coronavirus Task Force Briefing

Alex M. Azar II
Hubert H. Humphrey Building
June 26, 2020
Washington, D.C.

Thank you for joining us at HHS to update the American people.

I want to begin by thanking everyone around the country working to defeat the virus: all of the healthcare providers on the frontlines, those working to reopen our economy safely, the American people who have sacrificed so much in this fight, and the incredible members of our HHS team who have been working tirelessly to protect the health and well-being of Americans.

Before covering today's topic, I want to mention a major milestone for global health yesterday: the end of the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

We congratulate the Congolese government and all of the healthcare workers and community members involved, some of whom I had the chance to meet and thank in the DRC last fall. Under President Trump, the United States was proud to play a bigger role in this major victory than any other single nation.

Now, thanks to the President and Vice President's leadership, and the hard work of our team, America has never been readier to combat and defeat COVID-19.

We've built up our readiness under the strategy we developed to address surges, save lives, and, in time, defeat the virus. We're in a much stronger position to support states, hospitals, and individuals as they fight back.

There are six parts to the strategy: surveillance, testing, containment, healthcare capacity, therapeutics, and vaccines.

First, we've been strengthening surveillance so that we can be aware of and respond to surges. That means, for instance, being able to track more cases among younger Americans that we never would have caught earlier in the pandemic.

Second, we have the world's greatest testing capabilities, enabling us to confirm the presence of the virus when it crops up, and we are confident that capacity will continue to rise in the coming months.

Third, states are building the capacity to track and contain outbreaks of the virus. With federal help, many states have substantially expanded their own capabilities, and we're deploying knowledgeable, experienced CDC teams to the areas now seeing increases.

Fourth, we're helping healthcare systems secure sufficient capacity and supplies. We've dramatically expanded American manufacturing of PPE, and the FDA has authorized new technologies to sterilize equipment for reuse. We've spoken with hospitals and states that are building up their own PPE reserves, many of them getting up to 60 or 90 days of supplies. Through the Strategic National Stockpile, we have far more visibility into supply needs across the country, including centralized coordination capabilities that we lacked just a few short months ago.

Visiting healthcare providers around the country, I've seen how they're adapting to bring back patients while taking appropriate precautions. America's hospitals are ready to get back to business, while maintaining their readiness for COVID-19.

The fifth and sixth elements of this strategy are thanks to the President's historic Operation Warp Speed.

We now have promising therapeutics that are benefiting tens of thousands of American patients and, in all likelihood, have saved thousands of lives already. We've identified two very promising pharmaceutical treatments, remdesivir and dexamethasone. As of today, we've allocated more than 120,000 courses of remdesivir to all of the 50 states. We've added dexamethasone, a very low-cost steroid, to our treatment guidelines, and we believe it is reasonable to assume that other corticosteroids, which may be more readily accessible in some places, would have similar immunologic effects. Another promising therapeutic, convalescent plasma, has been used to treat more than 25,000 Americans in nearly 3,000 sites across the country.

There are no certainties in science, but with more than 140 clinical trials underway in the U.S., it's a pretty safe bet that more good news on therapeutics is on the way, and on the way soon.

Finally, we have announced large investments to support three different vaccine candidates all the way through to manufacturing. These candidates are now in human clinical trials, some with the potential to start delivering safe and effective doses before the end of the year, and we'll be adding support for several more candidates. We're expanding manufacturing capacity and already making the vials, needles, and syringes that we may need.

Our capabilities have grown exponentially in the time allowed by the patriotic sacrifices of the American people. We have a much better grasp of the virus and much more data with which to model it.

With that data, as you've heard today, we can focus on local trends. We have some very concerning hotspots, and we can track when other hotspots emerge, as we expect they may. We're focused on the states and the counties within those states—approximately 3 percent of counties—that represent hotspots.

It's important for the American people to be aware of this variation across the country.

Americans need to understand their local trends because we want to help people make the right decisions for themselves.

Making decisions for yourself has to be based on three axes of risk: You want to assess where you are, who you are and whom you live with, and what activity you're thinking about doing.

There are gradations of risk within each of these axes.

Going to an outdoor restaurant in Montana is a great deal different from a crowded indoor bar in Houston. When you interact with fewer people in an activity, when you interact with them for a shorter time, your risk is reduced, and individuals can balance these kinds of factors.

What I've laid out today is remarkable progress by the President's administration, and a particular credit to our team here at HHS.

We have much work ahead of us, but Americans can be confident that we have a rock-solid foundation to help us get safely back to work, back to school, back to worship, and back to healthcare, while we tackle surges of the virus where they occur.

Thanks to President Trump's leadership, we have the capabilities, knowledge, and strategy to protect Americans' lives and their livelihoods at the same time.

Every American can be proud of that.

Content created by Speechwriting and Editorial Division 
Content last reviewed on June 26, 2020